708. Torches

Matthew 25:3‑4  •  1 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Matthew 25:3- 43They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. (Matthew 25:3‑4). They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them; but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
It is difficult to tell whether lamps proper or torches are here meant. The rabbins speak of a staff used on such occasions, on top of which was a brazen dish containing rags, oil, and pitch. Chardin says that, in many places of the East, instead of torches they carry a pot of oil in one hand and a lamp full of oily rags in the other. The account given by Forbes is similar. He says: “The massaul or torch in India is composed of coarse rags rolled up to the size of an English flambeau, eighteen or twenty inches long, fixed in a brass handle. This is carried in the left hand; in the right the massaulchee (or torch-bearer) holds a brass vessel containing the oil, with which he feeds the flame as occasion requires” (Oriental Memoirs, vol. 2, p. 417).
Whether these virgins carried torches, or merely lamps, as some commentators suppose, they needed a supply of oil to replenish their light, and hence were obliged to carry “vessels” to contain the supplies of oil. Great efforts are made to have an abundance of light at Oriental weddings, which always take place at night. Reference is made to this custom of night-weddings, not only in these two verses, but also in the first verse, and in the fifth and sixth verses. Lamps, torches, and lanterns are freely used in the marriage procession, and also at the house of the bridegroom, where the ceremony is performed. Only vegetable oil, chiefly olive, is used for illuminating purposes.